05/23/2001 11:00PM

Platinum Tiara back on turf


MIAMI - Trainer Joe Waunsch watched in horror earlier this month as Platinum Tiara dropped back almost to last near the midway point of the Kentucky Oaks. He knew then that his dreams of winning the country's most prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies had ended.

Platinum Tiara eventually finished 10th in the Oaks, and now she will embark on the next stage of her career, a turf campaign, which will be renewed Saturday when she takes on older horses in the $150,000 Calder Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

Platinum Tiara has made one previous start on turf, rallying to a 1 1/2-length victory over OK to Dance in Hialeah's Patricia Handicap. OK to Dance, already a multiple graded stakes winner on grass, returned to win impressively in Keeneland's Palisades Stakes two weeks later.

"Even though she ran so well in her first grass race, it was pretty much predetermined after the Breeders' Cup that we'd try her in the Oaks since it was over the same track [Churchill Downs], and it is the most prestigious race there is for 3-year-old fillies," Waunsch said. "I wanted her to be fifth or sixth during the early part of the Oaks, and she wound up back to last and six or seven wide. If it's up to me, we'll definitely keep her on the turf from now on. With her breeding, she's got a really big future on grass."

Platinum Tiara, owned by former major league pitcher Rob Murphy's M375 Thoroughbreds Inc., is by highly regarded turf sire Cozzene. Tommy Turner, who rode Platinum Tiara in the Patricia, will fly in from Monmouth Park for the mount. Platinum Tiara will carry 113 pounds, four fewer than highweight Clearly a Queen.

Clearly a Queen earned top weight with an easy three-length victory in Hialeah's Columbiana Handicap. That effort came three weeks after she battled with Perfect Sting, the reigning Eclipse Award champion, before dropping a two-length decision in the Grade 2 Black Helen. Rosemary Homeister Jr., who has been aboard the 4-year-old Clearly a Queen in each of those last two starts for trainer Bill White, again gets the call.

Penny Blues may be the most intriguing member of the lineup, as she returns on one week's rest from a neck victory in her turf debut in Hialeah's 5 1/2-furlong Davie Stakes.

The remainder of the field includes Light the River, Silver Bandana, Chausson Poire, My Sweet Westly, Delirio, On the Horizon, Racing for Pahm, and High Stepper.

On the undercard of Saturday's 11-race program will be the $30,000-added Ponche Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong dash that will be the 2001 debuts of Silver Season and Thrillin Discovery, both of whom have won multiple stakes over the local course.